The Note

Today's Schedule (all times Eastern):

—9:45 am: Governor Howard Dean unveils his higher education proposals at Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H. —10:00 am: Congressman Dennis Kucinich speaks at Metro High School, Cedar Rapids, Iowa —10:30 am: Doro Bush Koch officially files papers for her brother, President Bush, to be a candidate in the New Hampshire Republican Primary, Concord, N.H. —10:45 am: Senator John Kerry holds a news conference to discuss clean air, Concord, N.H. —11:45 am: General Wesley Clark takes a downtown walk, Portsmouth, N.H. —12:00 pm: Senator John Kerry visits Verano's Restaurant, Manchester, N.H. —12:05 pm: President Bush attends a Bush-Cheney 2004 fundraiser luncheon, Buena Vista, Fla. —12:30 pm: Governor Dean officially registers to be a candidate in the New Hampshire Democratic Primary, Concord, N.H. —1:00 pm: National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice briefs reporters on the President's upcoming trip to the U.K., White House —1:30 pm: General Clark holds a "Conversations with Clark" town hall forum featuring Kosovar Albanians to discuss national security, Portsmouth, N.H. —2:05 pm: President Bush makes remarks on Medicare, Orlando, Fla. —3:00 pm: Congressman Kucinich visits the Center for Active Seniors, Inc., Davenport, Iowa —5:00 pm: Governor Dean holds a town hall meeting on education at Winnacunnett High School, Hampton, N.H. —6:05 pm: President Bush attends a Bush-Cheney 2004 fundraiser dinner, Ft. Myers, Fla. —7:00 pm: General Clark attends the Merrimack County Fall Harvest Dinner, Bow, N.H. —7:00 pm: Congressman Kucinich attends a meet-and-greet, Davenport, Iowa —8:00 pm: Reverend Al Sharpton speaks to Broadway Democrats, New York City —11:35 pm: ABCNEWS' Nightline profiles Vice President Dick Cheney (check local listings)

NEWS SUMMARY

Issues, smishues.

Try as it might to care about the interstices of Robert Pear's love affair with the details of a Medicare compromise, The Note lives and breathes ELECTIONS.

Wins and losses, tactics and strategy, checks and checkmates, gaffes and pratfalls — these are the political dynamics that make up our very biorhythms.

No truly authentic (or are they?) campaign memos today from us (The cutie at Kinko's claimed there were none lying around last night.).

Instead, our focus is on two elections — three if you count the fight for the Democratic presidential nomination, along with next November's battle royale, and what appears to be a new Administration effort to, in effect, call for snap elections, Brit-style, in the 51st state of Iraq.

Your must must-read is a Wall Street Journal front-pager by Schlesinger and Cummings that adopts a relatively bullish Vilmanian world view casting the Democrats' prospects of beating President Bush as easy as 1-2-3-4-5.

"Now the Democrats' battle plan is starting to take shape, with five main objectives. Neutralize Mr. Bush's national-security edge by fanning doubts about his Iraq policy. Craft economic attacks that can work even if the economy keeps improving. Dent the president's reputation for honesty and competence. Mobilize Democratic partisans in 17 states that Mr. Bush barely won or lost in 2000. And maneuver around the new campaign-finance law by redirecting now-banned big donations away from the Democratic Party to a new set of groups that will coordinate attacks on Mr. Bush."

(Note how the Dow Duo sneakily obtained an on-the-record Bob Shrum quote!).

What else is there in this news cycle?

Howard Dean: more inevitability-flavored money/union/momentum stories.

John Kerry: took his New Hampshire one-day story "campaign in disarray" lumps (getting his two first-in-the-nation batterings out of the way).

Dick Gephardt: splashy New York Times front-page profile treatment, and Dave Neal and Tom Beaumont agree — it's Dick Gephardt's fight for the nomination, too.

Mel Martinez: if you count electoral votes for BC04, the HUD Secretary must sure prospectively look a heck of a lot better sharing the top of the Sunshine State ticket than, say, Katherine Harris.

Watch for an 11:00 am ET gathering to announce the left side of the spectrum's answer to GOPAC in "PROPAC," an initiative from the Progressive Majority to "run the next generation of progressive elected leaders." Expected on hand for today's initiative kick-off: Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Progressive Majority Executive Director Gloria Totten, and Progressive Majority Bob Borosage.

Says one of the event's organizers, "the message is a little more hard-edged, economic base than the traditional Democratic" one.

President Bush attends a pair of Florida fundraisers today. He'll also make remarks on Medicare in between. He's right around, or over, $100 million and closing in (or over, depending on how one counts checks) his 2000 number for the all-time record.

Governor Dean, Senator Kerry, and General Clark all campaign in New Hampshire.

Congressman Kucinich campaigns in Iowa today.

Reverend Sharpton campaigns in New York City.

Congressman Gephardt, Senator Edwards, Senator Lieberman, and Ambassador Moseley Braun all have no public events announced for today.

ABC News Vote 2004: Bush-Cheney re-elect:

New York Times ' Maureen Dowd looks at the "Bizarro world" of Vice President Cheney and how just the sound of his voice "has the same effect on some male Republicans, starting at the very top, and even some journalists, that a high-pitched whistle has on a dog." LINK

Tonight, Nightline's Ted Koppel looks at the power and influence of Vice President Cheney in a half-hour broadcast on the man that U.S. News & World Report recently dubbed "The Man Behind the Curtain."

Koppel talked with columnist Robert Novak, former NSC officials Richard Clarke and Ivo Daalder, historian Douglas Brinkley, former CIA official Vince Cannistraro and the Heritage Foundation's John Hulsman to get a full picture on who Cheney is, how he ended up on the ticket in 2000 and the role he played on 9/11 and in the war in Iraq.

A sneak peak at what you'll hear tonight (and we promise you will not be disappointed):

Robert Novak: "I would say he is the second-most influential and powerful figure in the administration."

John Hulsman: "He's the guy who is the CEO of George Bush's corporation."

Douglas Brinkley: "He is the ultimate adviser you want, because he has no agenda for his future."

More Hulsman: "I think that Dick Cheney is probably the biggest story that isn't talked about out in the wider country as a whole. I think his power is unparalleled in the history of the republic, frankly, for that position."

Nightline airs at 11:35 pm ET — check your local listings.

AP's Theimer reports that the Bush-Cheney campaign will be right around the $100 million mark after two fundraising events today in Florida that are expected to bring in about $1.5 million. LINK

And the Washington Times ' Donald Lambro looks at why an incumbent needs to raise so much money and why the new campaign finance laws actually help the president's re-election campaign — "Mr. Bush, thanks to the GOP's huge donor base, can easily raise what he needs under the law's contribution limits. The Democrats, hampered by the soft-money ban and its much smaller donor list, needs billionaires like Mr. Soros to make up the difference." LINK

Ron Fournier writes that death tolls and Iraq policy are hurting Bush among military voters. Says one soldier, "I liked Bush. He comes off as a decent fellow … But as commander in chief? No way. Not now." LINK

An NBC- Wall Street Journal poll released yesterday shows that 50 percent of respondents approved of Bush's handling of the economy, up from 43 percent two months ago, according to the AP. LINK

The Buffalo News previews Vice President Cheney's trip to upstate New York on Monday, where he will make stops in Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo.

"Monday's event could be the only campaign visit of either Bush or Cheney during the 2004 race. If campaign officials think that heavily Democratic New York State will tilt away from the GOP next year, Bush and Cheney could repeat past Republican patterns and avoid the state except for its Manhattan fund-raising nexus."LINK

Christopher Marquis reports in The New York Times that Bush's allies plan to block effort to ease ban on Cuban travel. LINK

The politics of national security:

The majors say the U.S. has reached a "turning point" in Iraq leading to a "major shift" in strategy, with most everyone using the numbers "2004" somewhere in their story. Today everyone gives chase to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Wednesday CIA memo scoop (Kudos to Mr. Landay!), Italy's Berlusconi vows to stay the course despite Wednesday's attack, and $87.5 billion becomes one of the magic numbers on the Democratic presidential campaign trail. (Please see entries under "Dean, Howard," "Lieberman, Joe," and, oh, just about everyone else … )

In what is definitely not good news for a White House struggling to set American policy in Iraq right, the Washington Post 's Vernon Loeb and Thomas E. Ricks report the latest spate of attacks on U.S. and allied forces in Iraq "has appeared to be so methodical and well crafted that some top U.S. commanders now fear this may be the war Saddam Hussein and his generals planned all along." DO read all Major General Swannack's quotes. LINK

The Wall Street Journal reports on the latest "Iron Hammer" American offensive then turns to the "more aggressive political strategy" now being implemented. "In an effort to calm Iraqi anger at the U.S. occupation and to leach off popular support for the insurgency, President Bush, his top national security advisers and Mr. Bremer have decided to speed up their timetable for Iraqi self-government. At a White House meeting Wednesday, a senior U.S. official said there was general agreement for dissolving the current Iraqi Governing Council, and over the next four to six months creating a transitional government with a prime minister and cabinet to present a clear Iraqi face to the nation and the world."

The New York Times Notes the "early transfer of power" would not bring with it a "withdrawal of American troops, administration officials said. But if an Iraqi government could command broad support within the country, it could enable a significant draw down of troops before the American elections next November." LINK

The Washington Post 's Robin Wright and Daniel Williams report that the Bush administration "plans to support the creation of a reconstituted governing body in Iraq that will assume a large degree of sovereignty by next summer — and possibly end control by the U.S.-led occupation before the 2004 presidential election." LINK

And the AP out of Baghdad reports, "With rising U.S. casualties in Iraq now a factor in the 2004 U.S. presidential campaign, officials in Washington and Baghdad are looking at every option to advance America's political blueprint for a democratic and free Iraq by the end of next year." LINK

USA Today is chock full o' details on the Bremer visit, writing in Woodward-esque style, "In three private, top-level meetings at the White House on Wednesday morning, Bush made his impatience and frustration clear, telling chief Iraq administrator Paul Bremer he had to find a way to make the transition to Iraqi rule work faster and better." LINK

While the Paper of Record's ed board, under the headline "Iraq Policy in Crisis," says the "notion of short-circuiting the time necessary to draw up a workable constitution and conduct fair elections" in Iraq is "troubling" and "suggests that the Bush administration is in such a rush to bring American troops home that it has lost interest in laying the foundations for a stable democracy." LINK

Focusing on the CIA report, the New York Times shares the Philly Inquirer's judgment that the report is "bleak," and gets "one American official" to say the "warnings" spelled out in the report, which was "explicitly endorsed" by Ambassador Bremer, were a "factor behind Mr. Bremer's abrupt return to Washington for consultations this week." LINK

The New York Times on the agreement reached between the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks and the White House on "access to copies of the daily intelligence briefings sent to President Bush's desk shortly before the attacks." LINK

The Washington Post reports Democrats Max Cleland and Tim Roemer object to the agreement's restrictions "limiting what parts of the briefings can be seen and what parts can later be shared with the rest of the bipartisan panel" and including "White House review of much of that information." LINK

House of Labor:

It's the Unions versus Themselves as the Dean vs. Gephardt Civil War storyline continues and the battle promises no end soon.

There you had it, yesterday's McEntee-Stern marriage in the Chinese Room at the Mayflower Hotel with hundreds of guests and even a riser full of cameras (but no union mult!) standing by.

Please see the Dean section for more on this.

(By the way, we heard more than one person ask their neighbor during the McEntee speech, "Why isn't that guy running?" And we don't make this up, folks.)

Meanwhile the UAW's Region 4, which includes all-important Iowa, as well as Illinois, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana voted to endorse Congressman Gephardt. The New York Post 's Orin quotes Gephardt staffers claiming "Dean called every member of the Iowa United Auto Workers (UAW) board to try to talk them out of going for Gephardt — and the local UAW rebuffed him." LINK

The Wall Street Journal 's ed board (long a fan of organized labor, we are sure you shall agree!) reports on the "McEntee Primary" and finds "public-sector unions have clearly consigned private-sector industrial unions to second-rate political status."

Watch for what happens today when all of the AFL-CIO's political directors gather over there on 16th Street for this morning's regularly scheduled check-in session. Yup, that means both sides will be in the room talking turkey one day after each side won a big boost. My, oh, my what we wouldn't give to be a fly (with a union bug) rooming on that wall.

One labor organizer scheduled to attend the meeting tells ABC News' Gayle Tzemach he sees trouble ahead for AFL chieftain John Sweeney given this cycle's Union vs. Union Civil War.

"It is bad for Sweeney," says the labor source, because "it sets the stage for a very divisive battle for the next AFL-CIO convention in 2005" to see who takes control of the labor organization. "It is all about what the priorities of the labor movement are going to be from here on out." As for the current Dean vs. Gephardt Divisions, this union source says, "It is not going to be that easy to bring people back together. If Gephardt wins, are AFSCME and SEIU going to rally around the flag and support him? Will the Gephardt folks support someone they see as a Northeastern liberal?"

Stay tuned, folks.

And one other Note for your Thursday ayem: The New York Post reports SEIU local 1199 is coughing up $262,000 in fines to the Federal Election Commission for what the union describes as "clerical" errors. LINK

ABC News Vote 2004: The Invisible Primary:

The Wall Street Journal 's Jake Schlesinger and Jeanne Cummings turn in an absolute must-read on the Democrats' five-point battle plan for 2004, a list of objectives that seems terribly sensical if the party manages to stick to it. Taking into account campaign finance laws, the overwhelming Bush money juggernaut and the nomination process, Dems are looking to strike while the iron is hot — and the president's poll numbers are a tad shaky (according to a new Wall Street Journal /NBC survey), Schlesinger and Cummings write.

The plan:

--Focus on insecurity over how things are going in Iraq.

--Talk about the economy in a way that resonates with voters despite signs of economic recovery.

--Hit President Bush's personal reputation and likeability.

--Focus on the 17 states where Bush claimed a narrow victory — or a narrow loss — in 2000, and gin up the base.

--Channel the soft money that used to go toward "party building" into the 527 groups mobilizing against President Bush.

And speaking of that plan …

John Harwood looks at the new Wall Street Journal /NBC News poll, which shows the recent news of zooming economic news boosting President Bush's approval rating. According to the survey, conducted November 8-10 (after last week's great big growth numbers), 50% of Americans approve of the way President Bush is handling the economy. That rating, is his best on the economy in a year, and lifted his overall approval rating a couple of points — 51%, compared to the 49% approval rating Bush scored in September.

That said, Harwood Notes, "That hasn't yet substantially altered Mr. Bush's prospects for re-election in 2004. He continues to run essentially even when matched with a generically identified Democratic opponent. And he draws no more than 52% of the vote, with leads ranging from 12 to 16 percentage points, when matched against Democratic challengers former Vermont governor Howard Dean, Retired Gen. Wesley Clark and Missouri Rep. Richard Gephardt."

Clark leads the Democratic pack with 17% to Dean's 15%, followed by Gephardt at 12%, Kerry and Lieberman at 11%, and Edwards at 5%.

The Los Angeles Times' John Johnson takes a very keen look at why the Democratic Party is having a tough time keeping South Carolina voters (like those in Greenville) in its column. LINK

Florida Democrats see straw poll support flag. Final decision to come Sunday. LINK

Dean:

Ron Brownstein and Matea Gold of the Los Angeles Times write up the logistical and financial significance of Wednesday's big endorsement. LINK

The Des Moines Register 's David Yepsen writes that Dean may have wrapped up the nomination on Wednesday with his union endorsements. LINK

Knight Ridder's Steven Thomma agrees. LINK

The Chicago Tribune's Jeff Zeleny and Michael Tackett have fun with their lead, writing, "Dean took another step on his long walk from being the 'who's he?' candidate [ … ] to becoming the choice of party insiders Wednesday when he picked up the formal endorsement of two of the nation's most politically savvy and powerful labor unions." LINK

The Washington Post 's Ed Walsh writes up Dean's purple and green endorsements. LINK

Bob Novak writes that the endorsements "instantly changed the atmosphere in Democratic ranks. The former governor of Vermont is no longer merely a plucky outsider tweaking the political establishment. More likely than anybody else, he will be nominated for president — warts and all." LINK

And the Prince darkly hints at more oppo to come.

USA Today 's Jill Lawrence writes that the AFSCME and SEIU joint announcement was a "show of force that underscored the money, manpower and sheer energy they are prepared to put into Dean's campaign." LINK

Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times has another take on the SEIU and AFSCME endorsement. LINK

The AP's Leigh Strope reports on Dean's union endorsements. LINK

Dean and Gephardt share a Des Moines Register headline in the wake of their respective union endorsements. LINK

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Deirdre Shesgreen writes that "a potential Dean-Gephardt showdown is a particularly unexpected turn of events." LINK

"In a jab timed to the AFSCME announcement, Kerry campaign workers circulated letters yesterday they said Dean wrote as governor of Vermont in which he offered support for privatizing government jobs — a position opposed by AFSCME, whose core membership includes government workers," the Boston Globe 's Mary Leonard reports. LINK

From ABC News' Dean campaign reporter Marc Ambinder:

It was sexier than Arafat and Rabin. As a green T-shirted and purple-jacketed Howard Dean was making his way to the front of room to receive their joint blessing, AFSCME's Gerald McEntee gave SEIU's Andrew Stern a wet kiss on the cheek.

The friendly overture and the skin-to-skin contact overshadowed two different approaches to Dean, and two different benefits that Dean receives from two different unions. The dual endorsements today may have more impact as a one-two punch than as a powerful left hook.

SEIU chose Dean because he won over its members — his grassroots, bottom-up appeal, health care, anti-war message hit home. And AFSCME chose Dean in part because McEntee and other officials concluded that a Dean nomination was inevitable … and went with the flow with despite McEntee's stated preference for a candidate who had credibility on foreign policy matters. And because Dean won over its members. (Whatever sway McEntee has over his 1.4 million-person union, he would not be able to swing a Dean endorsement if his workers disagreed.)

AFSCME's endorsement will certainly help in Iowa, where Dean has to compete against Dick Gephardt's union juggernaut there. But it will also help, the campaign believes, sway undecided members of Congress, interest group political officials and those members of the Establishment who think about Dean and get queasy. McEntee's knack for finding the current in Democratic politics and jumping in can be uncanny.

SEIU will help in New Hampshire, and the campaign hopes there will be some indirect crossover from the union's efforts to identify and turn out health care voters. Stern is also one of the single most influential Democrats in the country. But perhaps the SEIU endorsement's most direct effect will be in the image primary (that whole diversity piece) and in later states.

For example, 180,000 members of SEIU's 1199 local in New York have already been sent a mailer "educating them about Dean's health care policy and the endorsement," according to a person familiar with the union activities. And hundreds of Dean delegates will volunteer for Dean's primary campaign there.

And that marks only the beginning of what SEIU 1199's Dennis Rivera plans to do.

Nationally, the more than 3 million members of both unions will very shortly receive their first official communication urging them to support Dean, according to union officials.

Read more from the trail with Dean on abcnews.com: LINK

George Will evaluates Dean's decision to opt out of public financing, and uses it as a chance to say, "There may be more moral vanity in Howard Dean than in any politician since Woodrow Wilson, which is why Dean is incapable of admitting that he has ever been wrong or changed his mind (about Medicare cuts, raising the retirement age, NAFTA, basing affirmative action on class rather than race, etc.). LINK

The Washington Times sees Dean opting out of federally matching funds as "logical." LINK

Howie Kurtz writes about how the media think Dean might already be unstoppable — with plenty of quotes from all your favorites in the national press corps. LINK

Case in point: Stuart Rothenberg writes in Roll Call that Dean has almost wrapped up the Democratic nomination, writing "The Democratic race is over."

Dean is offering a $7.1 billion plan to fund higher education efforts for students attending non-traditional colleges or universities, reports the AP. The plan would be funded by repealing the Bush tax cuts. LINK

Shelby Steele looks at Dean's flag comments in a Wall Street Journal op-ed and says no one should be demagoguing race for political gain.

Slate's Saletan compares the current state of the Dean campaign to the war in Iraq, writing the Governor's nomination "mission isn't accomplished, any more than it was in Iraq. Dean has toppled the previous front-runners, just as Bush toppled Saddam. Now the attacking is over, and the defending begins. And as Bush knows, the Post war can turn a lot uglier than the war." LINK

(Do Note the Saletan line, "The bigger problem is that Dean's blood is bluer than his collar")

Kerry:

The Boston Globe 's Patrick Healy writes that Kerry is returning to the "safe haven" of one of his signature issues (the environment) in the wake of a "messy campaign shake-up." LINK

The Boston Herald's Miga and Straub write, "Firing the coach is a time-honored solution when sports teams stumble into losing streaks, but there's little chance [Kerry] can use the same strategy to jump-start his flagging presidential bid." LINK

The Washington Post 's Jonathan Finer reports that the Kerry campaign is putting its Granite State hopes in Jeanne Shaheen. LINK

The Boston Globe 's Brian Mooney looks at Kerry's pending federal funds decision. LINK

The Boston Herald's David Guarino writes, "Kerry subtly tweaked his campaign message, focusing more on staple issues for left-leaning voters loyal to Dean such as the environment and health care." LINK

Look at Toles today. LINK

From ABC News' Kerry campaign reporter Ed O'Keefe:

"Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference."--Robert Frost

Senator Kerry returned home to Boston Wednesday, quickly making his red-eyed way to the extended home turf of southern New Hampshire. Waiting under overcast skies along the banks of the Merrimack River in Litchfield were nearly fifty members of the local and national media, gathered in the path of the Senator's nature walk.

Intended to highlight Kerry's environmental agenda, the Beantown gaggle only wanted to know one thing from Kerry's walk in the woods: which road would his beleaguered campaign now take and would it make any difference?

The Senator once again described Jordan's termination a la Pedro and Grady Little and brushed back questions seeking further definition of his "new dynamic." Expressing confidence, Kerry stated, "I think we're doing fantastically, and I like what we did."

Shortly after this first brush with the Boston press, Kerry sat down with veteran political ace Natalie Jacobson of ABC affiliate WCVB. In that interview, a combative Kerry insisted, "I want to talk about the things that matter to people and, and who's running my campaign, frankly, doesn't matter to anybody but me."

Read more from the trail with Kerry on abcnews.com: LINK

Clark:

Holly Ramer of the AP writes up Clark's strategic plan to capture Osama bin Laden. LINK

The major papers also take a look at Clark's new focus on terrorism:

The New York Times ' Ed Wyatt: LINK

The Washington Post 's Jim VandeHei says former President Bill Clinton talks regularly with Eli Segal, chief of the Clark campaign. As many Clark supporters search for a signal from the Clinton's that their presidential campaign pick is Clark, Segal said: "I don't think he has done anything other than to indicate his strong enthusiasm for Clark." LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Erik Slater: LINK

Joanna Weiss of The Boston Globe looks at candidate Clark's momentum issues in the presidential race with less than three months until the primary elections. LINK

The Sun Sentinel's Buddy Nevins Notes the Clark campaign's new Florida campaign director, Charles Dusseau. LINK

Roll Call reports that Clark will receive the endorsement of Senator Max Baucus, the first Senator from outside Arkansas to endorse the general.

From ABC News' Clark campaign reporter Deborah Apton:

General Clark has been a candidate for President for seven weeks now and while many stump lines have emerged over time, a stump speech has not. Instead, eligible voters who recently turned out for Clark's campaign stops have noticed a change. The General is becoming more comfortable in his new-found role as Clark the politician and straying from script.

At Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire yesterday afternoon, Clark had a few "out of sorts" moments when answering student and community members' questions. A couple:

--On troops doing their missions in Iraq: "We've gone into people's homes at night, kicked in doors, we don't speak the language, troops are nervous … they have night-vision goggles on, the Iraqis think they look through women's clothing with these things — I don't think they do."

--Responding to a question about a meeting with Serbian Commander General Ratko Mladic on August 26, 1994 where, as one student said in his question, Clark and Mladic exchanged military hats and took photos together smiling. The same student asked Clark — "is that the correct way we should approach genocidal leaders?"

Clark's summed up response? It was a "fruitful meeting diplomatically." But here's how Clark says the exchange played out:

"He wanted to exchange hats. So I thought to myself, I accepted gifts from the Muslims, he's not indicted, I don't want to be offensive here, I just want to follow military protocol. And I looked around, I said I guess I can do this, I don't see any cameras or anything. About that very moment, one of the Serbs, it's the kind of thing that happens to you when you haven't done this before — out comes a camera, Bang!, he's got it, and quickly releases it to the press to embarrass and so forth."

Read more from the trail with Clark on abcnews.com: LINK

Gephardt:

Robin Toner of The New York Times kicks off the Times ' series of presidential candidate profiles with hers on Congressman Gephardt. "Dick Gephardt wants to do it right this time. It is, in many ways, one last chance for political vindication — of his career, of the Congressional wing of the party, of a set of beliefs," Toner writes. LINK

The Des Moines Register 's Tom Beaumont focuses on yesterday's Gephardt endorsement and skims over Dean's. Of the Gephardt endorsement he reports, "David Neil, head of the UAW political committee, said the committee was deciding between Gephardt and Dean, but backed Gephardt, as it did in 1988, when Gephardt first ran for president." He also found Dean's support of NAFTA hurt him when the UAW voted for whom to endorse. LINK

From ABC News' Gephardt campaign reporter Sally Hawkins:

Well, it ain't AFSCME or the SEIU but he'll take it. The local Iowa UAW that is, who couldn't have timed it better, announcing Wednesday their endorsement of Congressman Gephardt and saving him from an all Dean day. The e-mailed press release, subject line in all caps, seemed to rub in their small victory saying the UAW is "endorsing Dick Gephardt over Howard Dean in the race for the Democratic nomination for president."

There was no rally and no fancy hotel extravaganza in Washington D.C.. Just a phone call from UAW executives telling Gephardt staffers their decision was made. The endorsement adds 36,000 more Gephardt foot soldiers in Iowa, bringing the total number of union members on his side to 95,000 in the Hawkeye State. That's more than double the number of SEIU and AFSCME members in Iowa. In a statement Gephardt said, "There is no union more politically active, more powerful and more important in Iowa than the UAW and I am thrilled to have their support."

Read more from the trail with Gephardt on abcnews.com: LINK

Edwards:

From ABC News' Edwards campaign reporter Gloria Riviera:

On day two of three without a public campaign event, Senator Edwards was in New York fitting in fundraisers and finishing up what the campaign unofficially tagged "Elite Week" — Edwards' tour of media duty. He hit The New York Times editorial board meeting, a lengthy network sit-down interview and even an honest-to-goodness "Let's do lunch" media lunch with a second network anchor.

The New York Times didn't come close to the giving Edwards the positive press the Post did after Edwards spoke to that paper on Monday, but Chuck Todd's column "WH 2004: Calling the (Football) Shots" in the National Journal is sure to have campaign staffers smiling. It might even earn a spot on the Media Wall back at campaign headquarters in Raleigh.

Todd looks for a viable anti-Dean candidate and finds his way to the "intriguing potential" of Edwards,

"The media love to create candidates, and Edwards is ripe for re-creation. All he has to do is finish third in Iowa and the media show is launched. Imagine this: Dean beats Gephardt in Iowa, Edwards edges past Kerry for third, and suddenly, there's a real race for second place in New Hampshire. The media coverage in Iowa will give Edwards a shot. . . . . It's a scenario that's more viable these days than, say, a two-loss Texas team somehow qualifying for a rematch with Oklahoma for the national title."

Read more from the trail with Edwards on abcnews.com: LINK

Kucinich:

David Corn deconstructs the various levels of frustration each candidate is facing, saying "The back-of-the-packers — Sharpton, former Senator Carol Moseley Braun and Rep. Dennis Kucinich — remain mired. Of the three, Kucinich has the most to be irritated about. Members of Congress tend not to fare well in presidential contests. But Kucinich is the progressive in Congress, a leader of the antiwar effort, foe of the PATRIOT Act, friend of labor, a no-apologies lefty … Yet Dean, not he, has been scoring with Democrats yearning for a kick-ass candidate." LINK

According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel Kucinich raked in $60,000 at events over the weekend there. LINK

According to conservative Web site townhall.com, the U.S. Conference of Bishops is considering a commission to determine if they can ex-communicate public figures, including Kerry and Kucinich, for their pro-choice views. Notice how the author refers to the two candidates as "pro-abortion." LINK

From ABC News' Kucinich campaign reporter Melinda Arons:

Either Kucinich is gaining in popularity or the PoliticsNH.com Webmaster finally got around to adding those other entries to the site, but suddenly there are 16 entrants to the site's "Who Wants to be a First Lady?" contest, 8 times the number from a few days ago. The descriptions range from the serious (a woman who was inspired to enter because her family fled dictatorship, she suffers from a disability and she's witnessed layoffs at her company) to the superficial (a 28-year-old Ivy League graduate who wants the free trip to New Hampshire to visit her parents) to the just plain bizarre (a woman who claims her astrologer Madame Lee says Kucinich is a Libra-Dog so they'll be "great friends and lovers"). The campaign still says no dice to participating, but if it keeps growing at this rate Kucinich might not have a choice but to agree to meet the lucky winner.

Not to be confused with the contestants, the band Barenaked Ladies has endorsed Kucinich. Singer/guitarist Steven Page rants on his blog: "Why does even the left-wing media say things like 'Howard Dean is the most progressive option for the Democrats (besides Kucinich)?' This occurs in both the Progressive and the Nation's current issues. It's time to take Dennis Kucinich out of the brackets and treat him as the viable and believable candidate he is." Too bad the band is Canadian.

Read more from the trail with Kucinich on abcnews.com: LINK

Sharpton:

The Washington Post examines the deflated DC Primary and notes Sharpton's focus there. LINK

Jeff Jacoby gets a little praise for his Sharpton rip yesterday. LINK

On BET.com, Joe Davidson attempts to explain why Reverend Sharpton hasn't really ignited the passion of African-American voters. Could it be the hair?

Davidson references an online conversation about Sharpton in which a participant said, ""He's a joke … He needs to sit his **s down and stop wasting votes. Those votes can go to a candidate that really has a chance of winning … Sharpton needs to retire from politics … and take that perm with him." LINK

On Town Hall's Web site, Larry Elder denouncing Sharpton, asks the question, "who appointed this race-baiter as the moral arbiter of the Democratic Party?"

And Elder agrees with Barbara Bush. "When all else fails, haul out Al Sharpton and let him take the Confederate flag and whip Dean with it. Former First Lady Barbara Bush nailed it when she called the presidential candidates "a sorry bunch" — with Sharpton at the helm." LINK

The NNPA profiles Daruius Jennings and the eulogy that Sharpton will give — and mentions President Bush's absence from funerals of fallen soldiers. LINK

From ABC News' Sharpton campaign reporter Beth Loyd:

The family of fallen soldier Darius Jennings has asked Reverend Sharpton to give the eulogy at his funeral to be held at 1:00 pm ET on Saturday, November 15 at Edisto High School in Cordova, South Carolina. Jennings, 22, died on November 2 when the Chinook helicopter in which he was riding was shot down near Fallujah in Iraq.

Campaign organizers indicate that the Reverend will only be wearing his "preacher" hat and that he will not discuss the politics of war.

Marjorie Harris, the Executive Director of the National Action Network — who accompanies Sharpton to all campaign events — issued a press release detailing the 'event' and almost made it through without talking politics … almost.

"Sharpton, who has spent most of his time campaigning in South Carolina, says this is not the time to discuss his political leanings on the war. He added, 'Even though I have spoken out unequivocally against the war, I will always show my support and condolences for the soldiers who give their lives for our country. Politics must be put aside when we bury our heroes.'"

Read more from the trail with Sharpton on abcnews.com: LINK

Iowa:

The Des Moines Register 's David Yepsen curtain raises Saturday's Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner with a heavy emphasis on Senator Clinton's role emceeing, writing that "[just] by showing up in Iowa she stokes the talk of a run someday." LINK

Senator Clinton will be making stops in Iowa this weekend — including headlining the Jefferson Jackson Dinner — to tout the presidential candidates, and once again deny that she is among them, the AP writes. LINK

The economy:

ABC News' Ramona Schindelheim reports that the trade deficit for September surprised economists by being larger than expected — growing by 4.4% to $41.3 billion as imports outpaced exports. Imports are at a record high of $127.4 billion, and exports rose to $86.2 billion, their highest level since May 2001.

Meanwhile, Schindelheim Notes, first-time unemployment claims rose 13,000 to 366,000 last week, the Labor Department reported. This number was revised upward from the initial report of 353,000. The total number of unemployed workers continuing to receive unemployment benefits after their initial claim rose by 49,000 to 3.53 million in the week ended Nov. 1, the latest week for which figures are available.

Big Casino budget politics:

The New York Times ' Robert Pear on the "tentative agreement on a bill to provide prescription drug benefits to the elderly," which has won Senator Breaux's support and Senator Kennedy's opposition. LINK

The Wall Street Journal 's Sarah Lueck and David Rogers report that congressional Republicans have grabbed the wheel on Medicare negotiations and come up with a compromise that got the nod from moderate Democratic Senators Baucus (Montana) and Breaux (Louisiana), Republicans, and the AARP, even if liberals are fit to be tied.

It includes:

--A pilot project beginning in 2008 that would in specific cases tie Medicare premiums to bids by private plans.

--A trigger for congressional action (not required) if Medicare depends on general government revenue for more than 45% of its costs.

--A plan for health care savings accounts with tax incentives for employers who give drug coverage to retirees with high-priced medicines.

The Washington Times ' Amy Fagan reports that while a compromise has been reached on a prescription drug bill, the matter is still on the table as proponents search for votes. LINK

A "fragile" deal on a prescription drug bill was struck yesterday, according to Knight Ridder's James Kuhnhenn. LINK

Bush Administration strategy/personality:

The Washington Post 's Mark Leibovich looks at Colin Powell, who received the George C. Marshall Foundation award last night. LINK

ABC News Vote 2003: On to Louisiana:

For those checking in late, the AP offers an overview of the Louisiana Governor's race. LINK

The New Orleans Times-Picayune's Robert Travis Scott reports on the final debate between Jindal and Blanco and what to expect in the final two days before the election. LINK

Roll Call 's Chris Cillizza writes that Bobby Jindal is "getting a major assist from members of the Louisiana Congressional delegation."

California redux:

Gregg Jones and Dan Morain of the Los Angeles Times report an emotional Gray Davis returned to the Capitol for the second time since the October 7 recall election and announced a slue of appointments which will likely not be sustained in a Schwarzenegger administration. LINK

Governor-elect Schwarzenegger's schedule may have said he was holding "private transition meetings and discussions with members of his transition team," but the New York Daily News reports he was vacationing in Hawaii with his family last week. LINK

The low-key inaugural will include a 10-minute address delivered by Governor Schwarzenegger according to the San Francisco Chronicle. LINK

Playing judicial politics: The Washington Post 's Helen DeWar reports on the Senate's 30 hours of fun. LINK

The Los Angeles Times' Nick Anderson sees the cot rolling and talk-a-thon-ing as a preview of what's to come when a Supreme Court vacancy occurs. LINK

Al Hunt turns in a must-read look at the politics behind Senate Republicans' gabfest, calling the whole spectacle a sham, and that an actual debate on judges and judicial philosophy would be welcome.

"Conservatives have a case on these issues, but many Americans will disagree. So it's easier to demagogue. As the Senate wakes up this morning from this charade, the clearest division, as maverick Republican John McCain said a few days ago, will be between the snorers and non-snorers."

The 30-hour marathon continues, and the AP's Jesse Holland was there to offer some color. LINK

Democrats are pointing to a GOP memo as evidence the long session was just a stunt for FOX News, according to The Hill. LINK

"Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) poured Minority Whip Harry Reid a glass of water" in the first show of anything resembling bi-partisanship, writes The Hill's Klaus Marre. LINK

Roll Call writes that both Democrats and Republicans are seeking "to milk every ounce of political advantage from the history-making event."

Bush is considering appointing judges while the Senate is in recess to break the Democratic filibuster, according to The Hill's Alexander Bolton. LINK

Politics:

Watch out George Soros, the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Stephen Koff profiles "Peter B. Lewis, the Cleveland-based insurance billionaire and philanthropist" who "has pledged more than $12 million to try to oust President Bush from the White House." LINK

HUD Secretary Mel Martinez may vie for Senator Graham's seat. LINK

The Orlando Sentinel reports on Martinez's possible bid. LINK

The Tampa Tribune has another take on Martinez. LINK

In the face of a slumping textile industry in North Carolina, Senate candidate Erskine Bowles urged the Bush Administration to impose sanctions on competitor China, according to the News and Observer. LINK

Senator Hatch joined Senator Kennedy to propose new hate-crime legislation that could give the government new, expanded powers in the matter, reports the Washington Times ' Charles Hurt. LINK

USA Today 's Cathy Lynn Grossman reports, "The nation's Roman Catholic leaders jumped into the intense public debate on gay marriage Wednesday, overwhelmingly approving a document that condemns same-sex unions." LINK

The Clintons of Chappaqua:

The AP's Stephanie Hoo reports, "A small clothing manufacturer in eastern China says it hopes to sign the former U.S. president to represent its brand, citing his 'worldwide charisma.'" LINK

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